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Passover is my favorite holiday of all time! To me, Passover is a Jewish Thanksgiving. It was always the time of year where my family (ALL OF IT) would get together and sit around a table. There were rarely ever any exceptions, we were all always there. I am taking about 30 people at a table, talking, laughing, drinking, telling stories. We sat, we drank, we ate, and we told the story of Passover.

People joke a lot: what is the story of Passover? Well, it is like all the stories in Judaism. We suffered, we overcame, and we ate. More specifically, it is the telling of the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt. But I feel that it is so much more, and it really solidifies for me why I love this holiday and why I am proud of being a part of this culture and religion. Growing up, we were much more traditional and went to what I would call a Modern Orthodox Synagogue. These days, like many Jews, I define myself more in the cultural sense. I am very proud of my heritage, and growing up in this way is a large part of who I am now as an adult.

Part of what I love about Passover, and Judaism itself, is that there is an openness and I feel we are given the latitude for change and growth. In Judaism, we like when people ask questions, even our own people who are questioning their own religion. In fact, we are encouraged to do so because we believe that questioning is a sign of freedom.

When I was younger, the Haggadah we used only spoke about the men, but the one I use in my home always includes the women of the story. It also includes Miriam’s Cup (not just Elijah’s), which is a symbol to honor the important role of Jewish women in our tradition and history. Its purpose is to bring these stories to the forefront because they have been too sparingly told.

Our Passover table is one filled with friends, friends who are not just Jews but people of different cultures and backgrounds. I love to share with them how much this holiday means to me. The food, the friendships, and the message. I feel that it is a story that anyone can relate to.

During the service, we dip our fingers into our wine glasses ten times, each as a symbol of the ten plagues that were brought upon Egypt and its people. We do this because a full cup is the symbol of complete joy, and though we celebrate our triumph, our happiness cannot be complete because others had to be sacrificed for its sake. We can never take joy in the pain of others. We remember that we were once slaves but know we are not all free until every person is free from suffering. We were once hungry, but we open our doors to anyone who is hungry to join us.

I feel that all I can do in this life is be the best person I can be. We all grow and evolve, and this holiday reminds me where I came from but also where I would like to go.